SL 676


Did some tromping around the woods this weekend. Twas lovely.

Love Jonathan Chait’s article about Matt Lauer’s pathetic interview of Clinton and Trump.

Education links — Interesting piece by David Frum about the bloat in college administrators who deal with diversity, but don’t actually help disadvantaged kids. Also, Fortress of Tedium: What I Learned as a Substitute Teacher.

Yeezy’s fashion show sounds fun!

UPDATE: Here’s more on the Lauer backlash. The asshole has to take some responsibility for the Trump fiasco. Every single morning during the primaries, he let Trump call in and say whatever he liked.

When Kids Sit Alone


(So this isn’t the 15-hour, 4-interview article. This is that last night, two hour, one glass of chardonnay article. It’s doing pretty well.)

Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver for the Florida State University football team, was touring a Florida middle school with other players this week when he noticed Bo Peske, an 11-year old with autism, eating alone in the school cafeteria. Rudolph sat down and chatted with Bo, while eating a couple slices of pizza. A school employee took a photo of the two at the table and gave it to his mom. His mom later shared the image on Facebook, along with a note about her appreciation of this small act of kindness.

The mom, Leah Paske, wrote, “A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption ‘Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son’ I replied ‘who is that?’ He said ‘FSU football player’, then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

More here.

UPDATE: The Atlantic is looking for readers’ views on this topic!! Chime in.


I just finished off a 1,500 word article. After taking the summer off, IT HURT! It took me a whole day to write the damn thing. Saddled with my chronic problem of excessive research (four interviews! Whew!), I had boil down all that info down to something that people would actually read. Sigh.

Writing isn’t easy. Well, writing blog posts is easy. Writing stuff for cash is hard. I’m going  to writing for other venues this fall, too, so I better get back on my game soon. I can’t do this every week.

Summer is nearly over. We’re buying back to school sneakers and new binders. The bus schedules have arrived. There was a cool nip in the air as I went for a run this morning. Another summer is done.

As we’re in the countdown until the end of the summer, I find myself assessing my use of time this summer. Did I get enough work done? Did we do all the fun things that we wanted to? No and no. Apparently, I can beat myself up for just about everything.

Since I put in a 15-hour day yesterday writing that article, I’m damn well not working today. So, I’m about to do a little searching for a camp site in upstate New York. I’m determined to sit in a tent this week and try out the hand-me-down kayak.

Whatcha y’all doing over Labor Day weekend?

Would “Free Tuition” Make Inequality Worse?

I’ve got a couple of work phone calls today, so Steve is taking the boys to look at a SLAC in Pennsylvania without me.  I would have liked to go, too, but it will be really nice to work without a million distractions. I can’t properly getting into the writing mode with the boys around. I’m always bracing myself for an interruption that tears me away from a thought. I hate that. I’m not the most admirable parent, when that happens.

Ronald Brownstein has an interesting article in the Atlantic today about the impact of Bernie’s — and now Hillary’s — plan for free tuition at public colleges. He quotes research from Anthony Carnevale from Georgetown.

If tuition is eliminated at public universities for families with income up to $125,000, as Clinton has proposed, more upper- middle-class students who now attend private schools may decide that Austin, Ann Arbor, or Berkeley are better bargains—and intensify competition for the limited slots available there. “What this will do is create a lot of people competing for spaces at public institutions and it will have a bumping effect,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “For minorities and low-income students it will push them down the selectivity queue, toward open admission and two-year colleges.”

I know that there are parts of the country where a family income of $125,000 is upper middle class, but it isn’t around here. It certainly isn’t around Carnevale’s Georgetown neighborhood. A $125,000 is the family income of a school teacher with ten years of experience married to an office manager. That’s not upper-middle class.

$32,000 — that’s the in-state tuition for Rutgers — is a stretch for a family making $125,000. College tuition might amount to a third of the take-home income for that family. If that kid is lucky enough to finish in four years, that B.A. will cost the family more than an entire year of salary.

A kid with an average GPA and test scores from a family like this isn’t going to Georgetown or other very selective private colleges that have a price tag of $70K. Rich kids are hardly going to be swamping the campuses of Rutgers and Delaware and pushing out more needy kids, if a plan like Hillary’s actually makes it through Congress (pretty unlikely anyway).

Now, a plan like this would be great for the lower and the middle middle class. For families that have enough resources to prepare their kids for college, but not enough to afford them. Would it help many lower income families? No. Because not enough of those kids are going to college and those that do are going to less selective colleges and many of them don’t finish school, because they weren’t adequately prepared in high school.

Brownstein does hit on a real problem in his article. The problem is that public colleges have become too competitive. While $32,000 is a lot of money, it is still cheaper than the $70K for the private colleges. With all the new amenities on these public school campuses, they are drawing kids that would have gone to the private schools. There aren’t enough seats in the classrooms for kids with average academic backgrounds. So, the traditional students of public colleges – middle class kids with B’s – are in a jam. Parents are sending them to out of state colleges with price tags in the $40-$55K range and racking up more debt.

So, there are three separate problems all of which need different solutions. Problem One is that college is unaffordable to middle class families. Problem Two is that there aren’t enough seats in public colleges in some states, like California, New York and New Jersey. Problem Three is that lower income kids are getting funneled to less selective schools and failing out.

The “free tuition” proposal solves Problem One, but doesn’t do anything about Problems Two and Three. Unlike Brownstein, I don’t think that “free tuition” will make Problems Two and Three worse.

A Bad Tour

Yesterday, Jonah and I drove an hour and a half to our state’s public college. The Arts and Science branch of the college doesn’t run tours in August, so we went on the tour of environmental science college within the school. It was all very confusing. The college has 31 sub-schools, each with its own bureaucracy and requirements spread over miles and miles of campus. It’s possible to major in biology in two or three sub-schools within the college. Why? I don’t know. Seems like a bureaucratic mess to me.

Actually, the whole school looked like a trainwreck to me. Reading between the lines of the tour, it was clear that students have very little contact with professors and that advisors weren’t really available to the students. The campus was ugly. Way ugly. It felt like the low budget city university that I used to teach at.

This school has the highest in-state tuition of any state college in the country. Where the hell is the money going? This is why you see Jersey kids at every other state college in the country. Shameful.

Jonah walked through the college horror stuck. While he didn’t pick up the cues about the problems with the faculty and administration, he got an eyeful of the exposed fluorescent lights in the dorms, the ripped carpets, and the bumbling dean who gave the tour.

He whispered, “I’m not going here.”

“Dude, you might not have a choice. You have to apply and then we’ll make decisions after we see acceptances and scholarships. Your grades are good, but you know that you could have done better. You need to apply here as a safety.”

“Why didn’t you tell me???!!!”

Um. What? He blamed me for not yelling at him enough to get straight A’s. Like this was some state secret that I was keeping from him. Teenage boys really need another year in high school to mature before we set them loose at college.

A Quick Note on A Birthday Morning

Just came back from a morning run and am feeling very virtuous, if rather sticky. I got back into running this summer determined to lose that wiggle and jiggle on my hips. I might even be ready for a 5K in a couple of weeks.

I’m gearing up for a busy fall. I just added two new side gigs to my work load, on top of the  Atlantic responsibilities. I am still volunteering a lot of time to the disabled community in town. And I’m determined to keep running through all that.

To get all that done, I’ve had to streamline my life. I have way too many interests and hobbies. I belong to too many organizations, too many cliques. I feel responsible for too many people. I’m slowly honing things down. Concentrating on fewer things, but doing a better job with those few things.

So, this summer I’ve been purging the office and basement of the excessive side activities. All the tubes of half-used oil paints and stretched canvases in the basement are in a black bag for the garbage man. I’m hiring people to paint the laundry room, rather than spending three days doing the job myself. I’ve let the garden get weedy. I’m not spending three hours cooking complicated meals. I’m not taking pictures of home improvement projects.

I would like to spend more time traveling and writing about it. We really did have an excellent adventure with the kids this summer. The four of us were ready to keep going. Going up to Montreal, Nova Scotia, and beyond. That’s the goal. The goal is to keep going.

Alright, got an interview for an Atlantic article at 9 and lunch with family at an Indian restaurant at 12. We visited a rather terrible college yesterday and I want to blog about it. So, I’ll be back later this afternoon.